Before deciding on whether we would do a tour I had made up my mind that no matter what I wanted my accommodation to be casa particulars. These are people’s homes that have been set up to accommodate paying guests, they are legally registered and are all over Cuba. I had heard this would be the best place to stay whilst in Cuba to get a more “authentic” experience and now, speaking from experience, it is definitely the better option. We stayed in a hotel one night (our first night in Havana, this is where we met our tour group) and whilst it was fine the one night stay included an out of order lift (we were staying on the 5th floor), no hot water in the shower, hardly any water at all, temperamental air conditioning and a breakfast that might have contributed to some upset stomachs. Compare that to our casas where we had rooms separate to the rest of the house, with its own locks, brand new air conditioning units, fridges with water and beer, safes, recently renovated bathrooms (including rain shower heads and electric power showers) and generous homemade breakfasts! I think it’s obvious what I prefer.
Nearly all our casa hosts spoke no English but you still manage to have conversations and there is a lot of smiling so it’s a very pleasant experience. These casas are everywhere and I’m pretty sure you can just knock on someone’s door, if you see the symbol indicating that it’s a licensed casa, and ask to stay. However, with how busy Cuba is getting regarding tourists it may help to book ahead and there are websites that help with this. For the end of our holiday we had nothing booked but our tour guide got us another night in the casa where we ended our tour – which was actually more like a hostel due to its size and amount of rooms – and then the owner of that casa (an Italian guy) helped us source somewhere else to stay for our last night. He sent us off to look at the room before agreeing to say there and we said yes straight away. This was before we released it was at the front of the house on a very busy street (one back from the Malecon) and sometimes it sounded like the trucks driving past were actually in the room. I was sick at this point though so I probably would have agreed to anything! And lots of places were fully booked, showing how busy Cuba is these days (this isn’t even peak season). Regardless of how you find and book your accommodation staying in a local’s home is the way to stay.